As we are gearing towards the hotly anticipated 2018 midterm elections, many editorials, forecasts and polls are showing very diverse analyses. Republicans could potentially lose their majority in Congress, which would arguably be a significant blow and would make political proceedings for the current administration somewhat more complex. A hypothesis they have already prepared for - if not the President himself, people close to him.
After two years of a uniquely rocky presidency, it stands clear that these elections represent hope for change and (more) reason to many Democrats, progressives and liberals alike. Not being a US citizen - or resident - myself, but identifying as a liberal democrat and (inevitably) watching the news, I can easily understand the amount of pressure that has been put on American society in these two short years. Many deep societal issues that were thought as dormant, contained or in the process of being solved - institutional racism, explicit xenophobia, political and economical nationalism… - are now front and center, all the way to President Trump’s very words! Who would have thought?
The answer is: very few. After eight years of a globally progressive Obama administration, during which social tensions grew mostly in silence, many extreme groups seem to be taking the opportunity to show their hate in public, trusting that the current administration will let them get away with it. And, more often than not, they would be correct in assuming as much. Having elected the country’s first black president was not the beginning of a new, linear path towards unquestioned progress. Rather, it was a remarkable social and historical jump ahead. But jumps are usually followed by falls. And the higher the jump…
Which brings us to today: even if Trump loses the House of Representatives, he will still have enough power to pass through many of the items on his agenda with the help of the Senate, executive orders and his newly appointed Supreme court judges. Regardless the outcome of these elections, he can still do significant damage. And he and his advisors know it, which is why they don’t appear to be particularly worried, despite a veritable slew of scandals rocking the White House on a near daily basis… Let us not overestimate the extent of what we can hope for. Or else we risk experiencing worse despair come 2019. And on till 2020…
And then what?
That is actually the key question, one where the voices of the American people have far better chances to be heard, one that can tell whether or not the tides will change - for good. The problem is:
1) No one is really addressing the issue publicly right now. Part political strategy, part short-term thinking, the current opposition to Donald Trump focuses instead on - rather meekly - reacting to his decisions and statements and, at best, presenting the midterm elections as a hopeful next step. This is nowhere near enough if we want real change in the next two years.
2) There are no credible opposition candidates yet. The most notorious ones - Hillary, Bernie, Elizabeth Warren… - are too old and/or have already lost too many feathers in previous fights to realistically prevent a second Trump mandate. The younger ones - Cory Booker, Stacey Abrams, Beto O’Rourke… - are too untested, unclear and/or unknown.
3) There is growing trend among Democrats towards more radical positions. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the few bona fide stars of the new generation, is the perfect example of that phenomenon. Aged 28 and virtually unknown until this summer, she defeated incumbent Joseph Crowley in the democratic primary for a key New York Congressional district. A Bernie supporter in the 2016 election, she identifies as a Socialist and supports Sanders’ key policies, including free education and universal healthcare. Just about the opposite of the Trump doctrine.
And that is precisely the danger here: much in the same way many European countries have witnessed in recent years, the American political landscape is becoming increasingly polarized. Consequently, there is fair chance that whoever the Democratic candidate ends up being in 2020, their positions will appear more radical than Hillary’s in 2016 or what moderates Schumer and Pelosi are currently pushing for in Congress - arguably with meager results. And that is exactly what Trump and his supporters hope for: a more extreme opposition will help normalize Trump’s policies while threatening the more balanced identity of the Democratic party.
In politics as in all things, moderation is key. Let us hope the American people remember that by 2020.